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It’s now law, but ‘Death With Dignity' still faces opposition while supporters push for acceptance

(HNN File (custom credit))
Updated: Jan. 2, 2019 at 6:32 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The day after Hawaii’s ‘Our Care, Our Choice Act' went into effect, supporters of the controversial medical aid in dying law said they’re making progress in getting hospitals to honor patients’ end of life decisions.

But some doctors and pharmacists are still balking.

“Most of the healthcare facilities, healthcare systems in the state are going to adopt or have already adopted policies of engaged neutrality that honor patient end of life decision making,” said Kat West, interim Hawaii Director for Compassion and Choices, which supports the new law.

“Make no mistake, we have had lots of progress to date. In fact, Hawaii is far beyond most states at this stage of implementation.”

Dr. Charles Miller, a retired oncologist who is consulting with Kaiser, added:

“Most Kaiser providers will be willing and able to write prescriptions for their patients when they request medical aid in dying," he said.

Hawaii is the seventh state or jurisdiction in the U.S. to legalize medical aid in dying.

But the new law faces key hurdles.

Some doctors and pharmacists oppose the measure on ethical or religious grounds.

“Another outstanding issue is the availability of the medication," said Lorrin Kim, Chief Policy Officer for the state Department of Health.

“For a variety of reason, we understand that the commonly used drug in medical aid in dying is an orphan drug, meaning that it is not in widely in production in many pharmaceutical companies.”

Aaron McQ's aid-in-dying prescription of secobarbital sodium. McQ had been battling leukemia...
Aaron McQ's aid-in-dying prescription of secobarbital sodium. McQ had been battling leukemia and a rare form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, for five years. In November, doctors gave him six months or less to live and confirmed that he qualified to use Washington state’s aid-in-dying law. McQ filled the prescription for lethal drugs in late December, planning to use them within the next several weeks. The hard part, he said, was deciding exactly when to die. (Dan DeLong for KHN)(Dan DeLong)

Kim said patients and doctors can opt for another form of medication that’s morphine-based.

But he added that insurers may not be required to pay for either prescriptions.

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